The Host[ess] With the Mostess

After a four-hour saga involving more internet jargon than I ever cared to translate, mild to moderate profanity, one million “what do I do now” Google searches, three live chats with Bluehost techies, five Bluehost FAQ video viewings, one phone call to Bluehost, one unwanted run-in with an architectural firm, one irresponsible Tweet, and three pieces of homemade pizza, I have created a new blog hosted via Bluehost.

Not only that, but I have also installed WordPress so that I might continue to use it (but on an independent URL), and have transferred all of the existing Eight Days a Week posts over to the new blog.

Whew.  As I mentioned in the irresponsible Tweet: I think I need a hug.

(So far only Ruby has offered.  I showered today and everything.)

I would love to be able to share my newfound blog hosting wisdom with you fine people, but unfortunately, even now (a half hour after completion) I don’t think I could walk someone through what I did.

What I can tell you is that blog hosting was more difficult than I thought it would be. The pros claim hosting can be done in 20 minutes.  Ha.

Another thing I can tell you is that when I was in the thick of things–and by thick I mean nearly in tears because I didn’t understand what an FTP Account wasBluehost really, really came through for me.  Their website contains dozens of step-by-step how-to videos and a live chat service which allows you to receive instant answers from knowledgable representatives. It’s obviously too soon to speak to Bluehost’s long-term reliability, but I would definitely recommend them as a host based on their solid tech support.**

They even responded to my despairing Tweet with genuine concern.

Here are three additional links I found helpful, especially during my preliminary research:

http://www.fannetasticfood.com/how-to-start-a-blog/

http://www.paulryburn.com/blog/how-to-start-your-own-blog-part-2-decide-where-to-host-your-blog/

http://www.theblogbuilders.com/blog-setup-video-tutorial/

As for the new blog: It will be a week or so before I make the official transition over.  It’s in need of some scrubbing up and tricking out before I show it to the world.

**Note that I am not being paid by Bluehost to promote their services.  Nor do they know about this post.  I am simply happy with their services and wish to share the joy.

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On My Own: Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Edition

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In my teens (particularly in high school), I never would have gone to something like this by myself.  I would have wanted to be with my family or with a group of friends.  Not because I feared crowds or for my general safety in public, but rather because I would have wanted to look like I belonged, somehow.  Like I was the kind of successful person who had back up, who had peeps, who had voluntary companions.

In my twenties, I’ve discarded this particular security blanket.  I have studying abroad to thank for that, and a certain icy roommate who seemed to either think that I was a swamp monster or entirely nonexistent.  That sort of treatment, rather than crushing my spirit–cue Oprah monologue–forced me to be independent, self-confident, and to chuckle to myself at the horrendous awkwardness of the situation.

An example of my claimed immense self-growth: a few evenings ago I went to a concert by myself.  I drove to Minneapolis (though I’ve always liked driving); ran up on a curb while attempting to park on a smart, residential street; and walked along Lake Harriet until I reached the band shell where the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians would be performing.

I then stood for an hour and a half at the back of the band shell’s lawn listening and periodically patting the head of my standing neighbor’s small black dog.  I enjoyed the music, and the general splendor of being near a great mass of water and seeing the occasional bright-sailed sailboat race across it.

Photo credit: Jana Freiband

Photo credit: Jana Freiband

The only discomfort involved in the outing–aside from when I jumped the curb with witnesses–was that when it comes to classical music, I hardly know what I’m hearing.  There a movement has ended, there the sound is building … that’s about the extent of my knowledge.  I greatly admired the young woman near me who had her eyes closed the entire time and was softly swaying her body as if in a great, music-induced trance.  I would have done the same, hoping for epiphany, but bad things tend to happen when I close my eyes.

You can see me in this photo!  It's tough, but if you look straight back from the man sitting center in the green shirt and Twins baseball cap, I'm the girl turned sideways with an orange-ish scarf on and a bun in my hair.  It's a little embarrassing that I'm not even watching the concert in this photo.  But hey--maybe I'm petting the dog?

You can see me in this photo! It’s tough, but if you look straight back from the man sitting center in the green shirt and Twins baseball cap, I’m the girl turned sideways with an orange-ish scarf on and a bun in my hair. It’s a little embarrassing that I’m not even watching the concert in this photo. But hey–maybe I’m petting the dog? Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson

Truthfully, until I arrived at Lake Harriet, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into.  I knew it was a Minnesota Orchestra concert, and that it was free.  But I didn’t realize that these were the Minnesota Orchestra musicians who have been locked out of the Minnesota Orchestral Association since October 2012, following a labor dispute.

Good for them for continuing to perform, despite the lack of steady salary.  Good for them for refusing to let their orchestra become anything less than the world-class group it’s always been.

After the concert was over, I pushed my way to the front of the band shell where buttons and t-shirts were being sold.  I grinned hugely as I bought my button and pinned it on, so much so that the woman at the table asked if I was a musician myself.  No, ma’am.  It just felt good to support a cause again.  Not good as in, my word, I’m such a Good Samaritan, but good as in, my word, even though I’m by myself, I’m part of this large group of happy people who love music and come to listen to it and buy buttons to support it.  What was left of my trembling high school self shrank three sizes that day.

If you’d like to learn more about the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, their cause, and their upcoming concerts, here‘s the link to their website. The Star Tribune write-up of the Lake Harriet concert and the current lockout situation can be found here.

Ole and Lena and a Salute to September 11th in Moberg Park

The marching band clicks off a warm-up in the park across the street.

Barb and I watch from the window, commenting on this flag twirler’s blue hair, that one’s skinny jeans

(which keep the eighty-five degree temperature contained around the skin of his calves)

(a vacuum seal of sweat and leftover summer tan)

Closing time, Gordy retells an Ole and Lena joke for me:

“Ole and Lena are sitting in a restaurant, surrounded by young couples in love … ”

The veterans come marching up the street, hiding their limps and holding high the colors.

We watch them come, as the saxophone players wet their reeds the trombones utilize their spit valves the flutists shuffle but are prim and ready

and the band director’s neck muscles tense and his arms begin to raise

The veterans have arrived at the gazebo without incident.

The EMTs fall back

Folding chairs whine as the crowd rises to honor the flags, but mostly the veterans.

“one young man says to his young lady, ‘pass the sugar, Sugar.'”

The band director waves his hands in mysterious signals.

And suddenly, miraculously, the Star Spangled Banner plays.

“Another young man says to his young lady, ‘pass the honey, Honey.”

I put a hand over my heart, a trick I picked up at Gopher football games because I never had a hat to take off like the men.

“Lena says to Ole, ‘why don’t you ever talk to me like that anymore?'”

A few cars, stopped at the Schmidt Oil stoplight, direct honks toward the flag,

and somehow, they fit in with the song as it ends with an untimely squawk.

“Ole replies, ‘pass the tea, Bag.'”

The band director shudders visably, but we clap and clap.

Photo credit: Chisago City Heritage Association

Photo credit: Chisago City Heritage Association

Out East Road Trip Days 4 & 5: Washington D.C.

You can see a lot in two days.  Especially in D.C., where the streets overfloweth with monuments and museums.

Because it would take me about three years to write a witty paragraph about every place we visited, here is a pictorial representation instead, for your convenience and mine:

The Library of Congress, complete with outstanding Civil War exhibit.  I was cruising through it, not very interested in accounts of battles, when all the sudden there was a letter Walt Whitman had written.  There was the signed Thirteenth Amendment.  They aren't overly showy with their authentic artifacts in D.C.  It's up to you to pay attention and discover what's there.

The Library of Congress, complete with outstanding Civil War exhibit. I was cruising through it, not very interested in accounts of battles, when all the sudden there was a letter Walt Whitman had written. There was the signed Thirteenth Amendment. They aren’t overly showy with their authentic artifacts in D.C.; It’s up to you to pay attention and discover what’s there.

Outside the Newseum was a display of state newspapers.  Minnesota was solidly represented.

Outside the Newseum was a display of that day’s front page from every state’s newspaper. Minnesota was solidly represented.

So, there was this house.  And it was white.

So, there was this house. And it was white.

The Capitol, where Minnesota's own Amy Klobuchar set us up with a tour led by one of her interns.  Also, I randomly spotted the Speaker of the House walking into his office, flanked by a few security guards.  No big deal.

The Capitol, where Minnesota’s own Amy Klobuchar set us up with a tour led by one of her interns. Also, I randomly spotted the Speaker of the House walking into his office, flanked by a few security guards. He stopped to chat about the upcoming Bachelorette finale.  He was team Brooks.

The Smithsonian First Ladies' exhibit, where we saw Michelle Obama's  inauguration gown (and shoes, which were refreshingly Holly-sized).

The Smithsonian American History Museum’s First Ladies exhibit, where we saw Michelle Obama’s inauguration gown (and shoes, which were refreshingly Holly-sized (aka about a 10)).

I will interject here to say that my favorite part of the entire D.C. trip was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s exhibit Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake.  I could have stayed there all day; I have a soft spot for anthropology, and an even softer spot for history and mummies and mysteries.  The exhibit was about the human remains found at early settlements such as Jamestown, and what the bones tell scientists about the person they belonged to.  There were about five different skeletons on display, but before you got to view them and learn their stories, you learned what physical clues archaeologists look for to determine how a person died, how they lived, how old they were, etc.  It was an extremely well-organized exhibit that allowed you to feel, for about an hour, like a real archaeologist.  Truly a dream come true.

The Lincoln Memorial, which we only found after an extended hike.

The Lincoln Memorial, which we only found after an extended hike.

The man himself, looking imposing.

The man himself, looking imposing.

Where MLK stood to deliver a rather famous speech.

Where Dr. King stood to deliver a rather famous speech.

The Vietnam Memorial.  The little girl in the distance was an accidental (but beautiful, in my humble opinion) capture.

The Vietnam Memorial. The little girl in the distance just makes this picture for me.

Other visited spots that didn’t allow photography: The National Archives (The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, LAND GRANT FILED TO CHARLES INGALLS, etc.), and the Holocaust Museum (exceedingly powerful.  Thoughtfully, provocatively arranged.  I almost burst into tears when I saw the piles of shoes which had been taken from concentration camp inmates).

Truthfully, I didn’t expect to enjoy D.C. as much as I did.  I knew I’d like the museums, but I didn’t think I’d like the city.  But it was lively and beautiful.  And filled with friendly people.  I certainly didn’t expect that, but let me tell you, Mom and I never stood on the sidewalk holding a map open for more than two minutes without a stranger walking over to help us find our way.  What’s more, when I somehow rubbed up against something (I suspect an escalator rail) and had black grease streaked across the rear of my white shorts, a woman stopped me to ask if I knew (I didn’t). What greater kindness is there?

Out East Road Trip Day 3: Charlottesville, VA to Washington D.C.

Yesterday was the day we attempted to tackle both Jefferson’s Monticello and Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Our house tour reservation for Monticello was at 9:00 a.m., and our house tour (or “Mansion Tour” as the brochure so elegantly dubbed it) for Mount Vernon was at 3:30 p.m.  The estates are about 2 hours apart by car.  And we needed a lunch/gas stop in between.

We felt a little rushed, a little like we should be humming the Mission Impossible theme as we sped through the Virginia countryside, but for those of you who also want to see both estates in one day, let me tell you that it is entirely doable.  That’s with a Jimmy John’s lunch, Exxon stop, and end-of-weekend traffic included.

Before I get to the Tom Cruise-esque madness, however, I need to talk a little more about Charlottesville.  Or Cville, as the cool cats say.

There were a few pilgrimages to make in Cville.  First, to Thomas Jefferson’s adored University of Virginia.  What a lovely university.  Before driving through the UVA campus, I had been able to keep my post-grad pangs at bay for the most part, but as soon as I saw the clusters of brick buildings, the shaded sidewalks, the Dinkytown, it suddenly felt so wrong not to be buying textbooks and color coding notebooks and folders (not that I’ve ever done that).  While I swallowed the lump in my throat, Mom attempted to locate the famed UVA Rotunda.  We knew basically what it looked like.  Brick.  Pillars. Dome. But even when we spotted this:

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we weren’t convinced that it was the Rotunda.  So we drove around some more, rapidly punching buttons on Bea The Misguided GPS, until we ended up back where we started.  At the Rotunda.

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And Jefferson was all

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I bought a $20.00 mug at the Monticello museum shop to make it up to him.

The next pilgrimage is slightly more creeper-ish.  Kath’s blog is one of my favorites.  I actually squealed loudly in the UMM library upon seeing the announcement of her son’s birth last September, which drew a few glares from those in deeper study mode than I.  I never imagined that I would actually make it to Charlottesville, but since I did, I thought I should swing by the Great Harvest owned by Kath and her husband, Matt.  Alas, they are closed on Sundays.  I settled for a photo of the infamous building (the creeper part).  Wish I could have met you, Kath!  And eaten some bread!

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Here are my thoughts on Monticello:

1. Our house tour time was 9:00 a.m., which was the first tour of the day, and so the grounds were nearly empty.  This meant that we didn’t have to wait in line to peer into various rooms and to read the signs attached to various sites.  As someone who likes to take the time to read everything while touring, I rather liked being there early, and would recommend it for future visitors.

2.  Monticello didn’t feel like a tourist destination. It didn’t feel like a sight that had been paved over with excess pathways or altered for the sake of the public.  It felt like Jefferson’s house, and it was easy to picture the man himself walking around and living at Monticello.  This I appreciated above all else.  Tour guides and signs were candid about what had been restored and/or supplemented, but when they had needed to, say, repaint a room, they were careful to match the color exactly to the original.  Hooray for history buffs who take the time to read through journals and records just to find evidence of a specific paint color.  You make the world a better place.

3. The house tour was phenomenal.  If I ever return, I’d like to do the nooks and crannies tour, which covers the upstairs of the house, but I was plenty content with the standard tour.  The standard tour covered the exterior, entrance hall, sitting room, library, Jefferson’s bedroom/study suite, dining/tea room, formal parlor, Madison Room, and terrace.  Our guide explained what was special about each room and included interesting tidbits that humanized Jefferson as much as praised his character.  I gained a good deal of new perspective about Jefferson that only came from visiting his property.

4. Next we tried the garden tour.  I say tried because we are bona fide tour ditchers.  We are the tourists other tourists look down on.  But we also didn’t care to listen to the guide explain each tree and flower on the property.  I say that respectfully, because the guide was doing a wonderful, thorough job of it.  We just weren’t interested.  So we hung back and then made our getaway and were perfectly content to wander the gardens on our own.  Everything is nicely labeled at Monticello; I never spent any time guessing what the significance of something was, even sans guide.

Here are some Monticello photos:

Monticello means "little mountain."  Naturally, then, views were involved.  This was taken from the practical garden, which grows the same fruits, vegetables, and herbs today as would have been growing there in the 18th century.

Monticello means “little mountain.” Naturally, then, views were involved. This was taken from the practical garden, which grows the same fruits, vegetables, and herbs today as would have been growing there in the 18th century.

The house.

The house (back view).

The house (front view).  I really try to take straight pictures.  I really do try.

The house (front view). I really try to take straight pictures. I really do try.

Part of the storage/workrooms that lay under the terrace.  Jefferson apparently liked to keep those bits hidden.

Part of the storage/workrooms that lay under the terrace. Jefferson apparently liked to keep those bits hidden.  (Sorry about the out-of-focus.  I try to get that right as well.)

The kitchen.  All set up and reading for someone to start mixing up hoecakes.

The kitchen. All set up and waiting for someone to start mixing up hoecakes.  A sign on the wall that I found funny mentioned that Jefferson “never visited the kitchen except to wind up the clock.”

Jefferson's grave, with what he considered to be his three greatest achievements inscribed upon it.

Jefferson’s grave, with what he considered to be his three greatest achievements inscribed upon it.

Thoughts on Mount Vernon:

1. We did successfully make our tour time, but unfortunately, it fell during the hottest part of the day.  The time of day when I am prone to both grumpiness and sleepiness.  It was also a time of day when the estate was crowded and the lines are long.  Hot+grumpy+sleepy+crowds don’t a happy camper make.  So there were parts of Mount Vernon which I perhaps didn’t appreciate as much as I might have had conditions been ideal.  It’s not Mount Vernon’s fault.  Visit early, friends.  Don’t let George see you cry.

2.  Mount Vernon felt a lot like Versailles to me (the only comparison I can think of.  I apologize for whipping out my “this one time, when I was in Europe” line) in that the estate was huge, mostly self-guided, and more often than I would like, I wasn’t sure of the significance of what I was looking at, or whether it was original.  Because of my garden tour ditch, you know that I don’t always jive with guided tours.  But I do like information-laden signs.  And there weren’t enough such signs, in my opinion.

3. The best part about Mount Vernon was the fact that there were various buildings to explore.  Most of them were located in a semi-circle on either side of the “mansion.”  So, for a selection, we peeked into the overseer’s house (and read a brief description), the salt house, the stables, and the kitchen.  Washington’s estate was self-contained, and it was interesting to see its various operations.

4. Most of the Mount Vernon guides were as grumpy as I was!  Perhaps they were merely responding to my chi, but my goodness, people were being barked at left and right instead of being helpfully directed.  I didn’t feel as welcomed as I had at Monticello, which lessened the experience for me.

5. The mansion tour was not the typical small-groups-led-through-by-one-guide tour.  Instead, a continuous line wound through the entire house.  In each room was a stationary guide who repeated a memorized spiel over and over again.  They answered questions, too, but as we were kept moving, there wasn’t much time to ask.  Some of the guides were animated and entertaining, but some recited their pieces in a monotone which again, dampened the quality of the tour.  I didn’t feel Washington come alive at Mount Vernon.  I had trouble convincing myself that we were really in his home, on his lands.  I wish I didn’t have to speak so negatively about an important historical site, but I want to be honest.

6.  Lest you think I hated the experience, here are a few big positives: first, the original blacksmith’s forge is still being used.  The blacksmith was pounding away as visitors watched, and often paused to hand onlookers examples of his work to examine, and to explain the various steps involved in making axe heads or hooks or hoes.  Further (and this is the really cool part), the blacksmith–who again, does his work where it would have been done in Washington’s time–makes all of the pieces necessary for restoration projects on the estate.  The second positive is an honoring ceremony that takes place at Washington’s gravesite twice a day.  The guide pulled two veterans from the crowd to place a wreath on the grave, asked two girl scouts to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, and asked another audience member to read from a passage about Washington.  I thought it was wonderful that visitors to Mount Vernon are allowed to participate in the honoring of Washington and his contributions. Third, there are animals at Mount Vernon.  Sheep and pigs and cows and horses.  And they smell and lay in the shade and chow down and otherwise behave as naturally as could be.  They lent some authentic ambiance to the place without even trying.

Mount Vernon photos:

The "mansion."  Okay, it really is a mansion.  I'll stop with the quotes.  But why is Monticello a house and Mount Vernon a mansion?  I'll never know.

The “mansion.” Okay, it really is a mansion. I’ll stop with the quotes. But why is Monticello a house and Mount Vernon a mansion? I’ll never know.

Because he had an abundance of timber on his estate, Washington chose to use it for the mansion and surrounding buildings.  But, since stone was considered the classier siding choice at the time, Washington had the wood siding made to look like stone.  This simultaneously baffled and delighted me.

Because he had an abundance of timber on his estate, Washington chose to use it for the mansion and surrounding buildings. But, since stone was considered the classier siding choice at the time, Washington had the wood siding made to look like stone. This simultaneously baffled and delighted me.

The Potomac!  I won't say how much I squealed when I saw it.  It's rawthur a famous river, you know.  I'm partial to the Mississippi, but I have to say that this view from Mount Vernon's backyard was quite grand.

The Potomac! I won’t say how much I squealed when I saw it. It’s rawthur a famous river, you know. I’m partial to the Mississippi, but I have to say that this view from Mount Vernon’s backyard was quite grand.

The stables still smelled like horses!  Amazing!

The stables still smelled like horses!

No offense TJ, but GW's gardens were better than yours.

No offense TJ, but GW’s gardens were better than yours.

The overseer's house.

The overseer’s house.

The blacksmith's shop, where we spent a good deal of time gaping.

The blacksmith’s shop, where we spent a good deal of time gaping.

My sheep friends.  Notice the ones dozing against the cool stone wall.

My sheep friends. Notice the ones dozing against the cool stone wall.

An Interview With a Real, Live Tough Mudder

Yesterday my sister and three of her friends from elementary school did the Tough Mudder Minnesota (located in Somerset, Wisconsin, funnily enough).  In an exclusive, no-holds-barred interview, I managed to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to anticipate a Mudder, to participate in a Mudder, and to look back on it a day later.

Here’s the blurb from the Tough Mudder website, in case you’re not sure what it is:

“Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, 1,000,000 inspiring participants worldwide to date, and more than $5 million raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world.”

It’s also called “the toughest event on the planet.”

Here’s what Amy had to say about it:

In your own words, what is a Tough Mudder?

It is a ten-mile run with really hard obstacles, a lot of mud, and a lot of teamwork and camaraderie.  It’s so fun, but it’s really a challenge.  It challenges you, your friendships, your partnerships.

 Why did you decide to do a Tough Mudder?

I don’t know. I knew someone who did it, and I thought it would be cool to say I did it.  I thought it would be an interesting challenge.

 What worried you about it?

I knew it was going to be really, really hard, and I knew I wasn’t prepared: because of work, I ran out of time to train, and I came up with excuses, like oh, I have plenty of time before the end of July.  So I didn’t end up training at all.

 Were there any obstacles you were worried about in particular?

I didn’t look up the obstacles ahead of time.  I didn’t want to see what they were.  I wanted to be surprised so I didn’t overthink it.

I give you the Arctic Enema obstacle.  A dumpster filled with ice water that runners must jump into and swim across.  Plus, a board across the middle means that runners have to GO UNDER WATER to avoid it.  Understandably, there was a lot of profanity.

I give you the Arctic Enema obstacle. A dumpster filled with ice water that runners must jump into and swim across. Plus, a board across the middle means that runners have to GO UNDER WATER to avoid it. Understandably, there was a lot of profanity involved.

 How you did you feel on the morning of the Mudder?

I was tired.  I was excited, too

 What did you eat before the Mudder?

I had pasta with chicken the night before, and then ice cream for dessert.  In the morning I had Rice Chex with blueberries and milk.  Overall the food was fine.  The one thing I was lacking was energy, so it was nice that they had stations set up with shotblocks and bananas and water.

Actual photograph of Amy's actual pre-Mudder bowl of ice cream.

Actual photograph of Amy’s actual pre-Mudder bowl of ice cream.

 Next year, would you eat something different?

It didn’t make me feel good about myself that I ate ice cream for the Tough Mudder.  I don’t know if I actually felt physical effects, but I felt less confident and worried that it would affect me negatively during the run.

 Were you worried when you saw the other participants? Interviewer’s note: most of them appeared to be tall, burly men between the ages of 20 and 30.

When I saw who was in my wave, I was really intimidated.  But online I had seen lots of photos of different-sized people, and even people in wheelchairs doing the run.  I knew I was in the first wave, so I couldn’t come in last.  So that was good.

 What was your favorite obstacle and why?

My favorites were the Mud Mile and the Boa Constrictor.  The Mud Mile was this wide running path with mounds of hard mud that you had to climb over, and mud pits filled with water you had to jump into.  You never knew how deep the pits were, because they changed it up.  The Boa Constrictor was made of big black sewer pipes with water in them.  You had to crawl through, and every so often the pipe opened up into a mud pit with barbed wire to crawl under.

[Below: The Electric Eel, your interviewer’s personal favorite obstacle.  Mudders had to crawl through the water (it was a lot deeper for the MN Mudder: maybe five inches or so) amidst hundreds of hanging, fully charged, electric wires.  Whenever someone brushed a wire, they would be shocked.  In some ways, it was hard to watch because it looked like it really, really hurt.  In other ways, it was hilarious to see grown men and women screaming like children and swearing up a storm as they went through.]

 How did you and your friends motivate each other during the run?

When running, we would sometimes all slow down to a walk and chat to take our minds off things.  Having to boost each other over walls and cheer each other on was great.

 What were some moments you witnessed of strangers helping each other?

That was the entire thing.  If  you were on one side waiting to climb up a wall [and all your teammates had already climbed over], another group would come and boost you over.  When we couldn’t get Cady [one of Amy’s teammates] up the ramp, a guy came over and hauled her up.  Lots of cheering and high fives.  It wasn’t a competition; no one took it too seriously.

How did you feel crossing the finish line?

I was tired.  I was pooped.  But it was a big feeling of accomplishment.  And relief that there were no more hills to run up.

Across the finish line.

Across the finish line.

Would you do the Mudder again, and why?

Yes.  We plan on doing it again next year as a kind of friend reunion.  We want to see how well we do time-wise and skill-wise if we all actually train.

Do you plan on training harder next year?  What kind of training do you think would have been useful?

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Running hills.  Finding the steepest hills and running up and down like a hundred times.  Because the running part [of the Mudder] was all about running up and down hills that were muddy and slippery.  Pull ups would also be helpful for getting yourself up over walls.

 What did you wear to the Mudder this year?  Would you wear something different next year?

This year I wore running compression shorts, an UnderArmour t-shirt, old tennis shoes, and socks.  Next time I would wear shoes with more support.  I think I would want to train in a pair of shoes and then wear the same pair on the run.  We want to wear costumes, too: to make it more fun.

 How do you feel today (the day after the Mudder)?

I’m pretty sore.  Very sore.  Definitely taking Advil.  You feel a sense of accomplishment, though, and it’s a cool thing to tell people.

 Any advice you would give those planning to do a Mudder themselves?

Pick your teammates wisely.  We should have had a guy, because sometimes you need that extra strength to help you over the walls.  I did it with friends I had a close relationship with.  We kept each other motivated, and if someone wanted to stop and walk, we were all okay with that.  We were all constantly checking up on the others.  If I did it with people I didn’t know as well, I might feel like I couldn’t walk.

The Gothic Thrill of a Rainstorm Rescue

Note: This incident happened a few years ago, while I was working at Target for the summer.  I found the story saved in a Word document, and thought I should share it on here (everyone loves a good dog story, after all).  I play the clumsy girl in the red and khaki.

A few days ago, I was late for work.  When I finally arrived, my hair was so soaked that it stuck to my forehead in thick chunks.  The top half of my red shirt was wet as well, and my shoes squeaked as I walked down the main aisle toward Pat, who was scanning in Kitchen.

I walked past Kathy, who said “Good morning, Holly,” as she always does.

In fact, Kathy uses my name every single time she addresses me.  It bothered me a little at first, because it seemed as though she was continually trying to prove to me that she remembered my name.  Now I like it, though, because she looks me in the eye when she says it, because when she says my name she makes it sound so solid and important, and because she looks cheerily satisfied when I follow my “Good morning” with her name in return.

I walked past Maria, who commented on my wet shirt.  “What happened?”  she asked.  “It’s not even raining anymore!”

“I know,” I replied, hesitating, “but there was a dog on the highway, and I stopped to bring him home.”

“What a do-gooder!”  I heard Maria exclaim behind me, but I was already moving toward the next aisle, not knowing how to explain more fully.  I’ll try it here:

It was about 6:40 in the morning.  I was on my way to work.  Red shirt, khaki slacks, name badge, What You Missed In History Class podcast.  I had just turned on to the highway when I noticed a large reddish dog standing by the shoulder.  My first thought was that the dog was from my neighborhood, and that his name was Buddy.  My second thought was oh Lord he’s going to run out in front of a car.  My third thought was blurry, because I found myself pulling over and jumping out of my truck, while in complete disbelief that I was actually pulling over and jumping out of my truck.

Up ahead I could see Buddy weaving in and out of traffic.  He was literally chasing cars.  On the highway.  I couldn’t tell if he was having the time of his life, or if he was scared to death, but I certainly knew that he was going to get hit any second.  I began to scream his name, but I could barely hear myself over the roar of traffic.

Just then, a car pulled up beside me.  The man inside rolled down the window and motioned toward Buddy, then toward me.  Then he spun around and drove off down the road, to where Buddy had disappeared amongst cars filled with caffeinated businessmen and moms on early morning shopping missions.  I quickly got into my truck and followed, turning onto a side road where the man had turned.  As I got out of my car a second time, I saw that Buddy was now lying on his side on the shoulder.  The man was squatted next to him, his hand on Buddy’s head.  I rushed toward them, wondering frantically if Buddy was dead, if I was going to have to be part of a roadside scene in which the actors are blurry eyed and messy instead of shining and composed.  I worried, as I hurried, about how I’d take it.  I worried about how Buddy’s owners would take it.

The man looked up as I neared, and said quickly, “Don’t worry, he’s okay.  He’s just scared, I think.”

“That’s good,” I replied stupidly, gazing down at the dog.

Sure enough, Buddy was breathing.  His long red fur moved up and down in big huffs, and he looked at me with as much gratitude as I’ve ever seen in a dog.  He’d had fun, but he was ready to be helped home now, thank you very much.

And then, because I realized the man was looking at me expectantly, I explained: “Oh-he’s not my dog.  He’s my neighbor’s dog.  He lives right down the next street.”  I checked Buddy’s tag to verify.  An address a few blocks away was printed clearly upon it.  Buddy was not a first time runaway.

Since the man already had his own dog in his truck, I offered to drive Buddy home in mine.  Clutching the still-trembling dog by the collar, I ran across the road to where I had haphazardly parked my vehicle.  The doors were locked, and through the streaked window, I could see the keys resting innocently on the seat.

I went back—Buddy still in tow—to explain to the man what had happened.  He started to offer me a ride, but his own dog was in his car with him, and I suspected it might be easier just to walk, rain or no rain.  So, we set off down the street, a bedraggled parade of me in drenched red-and-khaki; Buddy, who had the good grace to maintain an air of humility; and driving behind, the man and his dog.  I wasn’t sure, honestly, why the man was still following.  I wondered briefly whether he doubted I—who had locked her keys in her car—could manage to successfully deliver a dog, whether he wanted to make sure his part in the heroics wasn’t left unmentioned, or, most likely, whether he also appreciated the break from the mundane and the gothic thrill of a rainstorm rescue.

My back hurt by the time we reached Buddy’s house: I hadn’t dared let go of his collar for fear he would bolt toward the highway again, and so had to walk with a hunched shuffle.  But it would be worth it, I was confident.  Perhaps I’m simply not as “good” as the good Samaritans I read about in newspapers.  They always say that they never thought about a reward, never thought about the end result.  They just did what they felt was needed.  But I of the racing thoughts imagined as I walked how wonderful it would be to reunite Buddy with his family.  I imagined they’d explode with relief and happiness and gratitude.

In actuality, the reunion consisted of me knocking on the door of a big brown house at the end of my street, the man standing on the porch behind me.  Three children answered, staring up at us with curious eyes and parting so that Buddy could run between them into the house.  Their parents came forth eventually, and we explained what had happened.  They didn’t seem surprised.  As I suspected, Buddy was not a first-time runaway.  The owners didn’t seem very grateful, either.  Sure, the tears and profuse thank yous I had envisioned were definitely unnecessary, but over the course of our five-minute conversation, the words “thank you” were not said at all.

So, the man and I left.  We were both a little stunned at the cold reception, although we didn’t say so.  We said goodbye, and then he drove back toward the highway, and I hiked home for the spare key to my truck.

I was late for work that day, and when I arrived my clothes and hair were still wet.

Kathy didn’t notice, but Maria asked me what had happened.  I didn’t know how to explain properly, so I didn’t.

I simply walked on toward Kitchen, where I began aiming my PDA laser at labels for cheese graters and garlic presses and wine openers that resembled Swiss Army Knives in their complexity.

Buddy, I hoped, was resting on a large pillow somewhere quiet.  I hoped that he could learn to ignore the faint rushing sound of cars on the highway.  Most of all I wondered, smiling to myself, what he would have done with a car once he’d caught one.

Not Buddy, but our own Ruby when she was still small enough and quiet enough to be a lap dog.  I thought this post needed a dog picture.

Not Buddy, but our own Ruby when she was still small enough and quiet enough to be a lap dog. I thought this post needed a dog picture.